Three Minutes From Gold

Peyton Dripps, Staff Writer

We have all been late to an event. Whether you are a few minutes late to a class, a presentation, or a dinner with friends, we are not perfect, and we sometimes slip up. Now, imagine showing up late to a competition. It is your time to compete, and you are just a few minutes late due to valid reasons. Should you be punished for your tardiness, or is an apology enough? Malaysian athlete Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli, a Paralympian competing in the Tokyo Paralympics, was three minutes late to his event. After winning the men’s shot put F20 on Tuesday, his gold medal was stripped because of his tardiness.

At the time of the competition, the reason for Zolkefli’s lateness was deemed logical, which allowed him to compete that day. “They may have had a logical reason for being late,” and “therefore, we allowed them to compete and look at the facts of the matter afterward,” International Paralympic Committee (IPC) spokesman Crag Spence said. The IPC should not have let this slide. If they are going to allow the athletes to compete after being late if the reason is “logical,” then the athletes should not face any penalties. Instead, the IPC should have instituted a policy to deny the athletes from competing rather than strip an athlete of their reward; referees should have stopped Zolkefli from participating. Their decision was a smack in the face to Zolkefli and was not justifiable.

After allowing the athletes to compete, a referee stated that there was no justifiable reason for the athletes’ tardiness to the event. Eager viewers at home and abroad became enraged as they watched Zolkefli be stripped of his gold medal. Just when their anger seemed at its peak, the gold was handed to Maksym Koval of Ukraine, who had just won silver.
Why was Zolkefli stripped of the medal he had worked so hard to earn? Zolkefli said he couldn’t “hear the announcement or it was in a language” he couldn’t understand. One would think that the PIC and referees would be more understanding.
Three minutes determined the fate of Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli in the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics. With the Paralympic jury appeal backing up the referees’ claim, the athlete was stripped of his well-earned medal and record-breaking throw. The IPC, through World Para Athletics Rule 5.5, requires that all athletes be present at the beginning of their event in order to be considered in events.

Stripping this world record-breaking throw of 17.94 meters (58.85 feet) after allowing him to compete was not acceptable. Zolkefli’s supporters shared that they would have rather seen the athlete not compete that day due to his mistake than watch him be stripped of a well-deserved gold medal. A post on social media by Malaysian Parliamentarian Fahmi Fadzil reads, “Absolutely disgraceful! You should not have allowed the athletes to compete if they were late. Don’t steal this hard-earned, world record-breaking medal from Ziyad,” Fadzil said. This was wrong of the Paralympic Committee as they should’ve made the decision before rather than after Zolkefli participated in the competition. The National Sports Council of Malaysia has been ordered to investigate the issue and find if the athlete’s reason for his lateness is justifiable. Fans of Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli shared on Twitter that although he was stripped of a world record and a gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics, he will always remain a champion in their eyes.

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